Hollywood Casino Perryville reports September revenue

Hollywood Casino Perryville, Maryland's first slots parlor in decades, generated more than $2 million in revenue during its first four days of operation in September, the Maryland State Lottery reported Wednesday.

Hollywood Casino, which opened Sept. 27 with 1,500 slot machines, averaged nearly $346 a machine per day. That's higher than the state's projection of $210 a machine per day, which was laid out in a 2007 study by the Department of Legislative Services, whose estimate was based on assumptions that do not hold true today.

Gaming analysts say the early revenue report is encouraging but not entirely surprising, since the Cecil County casino is the state's sole slots facility and casinos typically draw large crowds when they open.

"While we expect win [per] day to moderate over time given typically high traffic volumes surrounding the grand opening of casinos, we believe initial win [per] day was likely well above expectations," analysts at Union Gaming Research in Las Vegas wrote Wednesday.

The casino in Perryville opened several days ahead of schedule with high hopes for an industry that is expected eventually to generate thousands of jobs for Marylanders and to contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to the state.

"We had a fantastic start to things," said Himbert Sinopoli, the general manager at the Perryville facility, which drew more than 27,600 visitors in September.

Although the casino's performance in September exceeded management's expectations, Sinopoli cautioned that initial revenue was "not typically going to be your average business."

Maryland slots supporters won a 2008 referendum to approve slots at five locations in the state, which had banned slot-machine gambling in the 1960s. But besides Perryville, a casino at Ocean Downs racetrack on the Eastern Shore is the only other facility scheduled to open this year.

Plans for parlors in Baltimore and at Arundel Mills have become entangled in legal challenges. And the state has been unable to identify an acceptable bidder to operate a slots parlor at Rocky Gap in Western Maryland.

Anne Arundel voters will decide in a November referendum whether to allow the 4,750-machine slots parlor proposed by the Cordish Cos.

Of the $2 million in revenue for September, nearly 49 percent will go to the Maryland Education Trust Fund.

"The money generated from slots will benefit many important state programs, most significantly public education," Maryland Lottery Director Stephen Martino said in a statement.

The remaining revenue will be split among several other parties. The casino owner, Penn National Gaming, will receive 33 percent, or $685,026.71.

Others that will receive a portion of the slots revenue include the Maryland Lottery; small, minority- and women-owned businesses; the state's horse-racing purse account and a racetrack facility renewal account. Also, Cecil County and Perryville will each receive a portion of the slots revenue. State law set the percentage each group receives.

Perryville Mayor James L. Eberhardt said the city was eager to receive its allocation, slated to be nearly $40,000. Much of the city's slots revenue is expected to be spent on public safety, including the hiring of additional police officers and the purchase of equipment, Eberhardt said.

For the rest of the year, Union Gaming is projecting daily revenue of $180 per machine at Hollywood Casino. The fourth quarter is typically a slower period in the industry.

Steven Wieczynski, a gaming analyst at Stifel Nicolaus, said it was still too early to assess the casino's performance, though he noted that Perryville's September revenue was better than he had expected.

In contrast, competitors in surrounding states such as Pennsylvania and West Virginia averaged $313 and $229 daily per slot machine in July and August, according to Wieczynski. Casinos in Delaware generated $217 daily per machine during the same period, he said.

Revenue projections for Maryland's slots program were based on several assumptions, including the expectation that all five approved casinos would be open and that the maximum of 15,000 slot machines would be operating.

At Cecil County, for instance, 2,500 slot machines are permitted by law, but Hollywood Casino operates just 1,500.

The state's study also assumed that West Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania would not expand their gambling programs beyond slot machines. All three states now offer table games, such as poker, blackjack and craps.

How Perryville's $2,075,838.53 in September revenue was split

Maryland Education Trust Fund: $1,006,781.69

Hollywood Casino Perryville: $685,026.71

Horse racing purse account: $145,308.70

Cecil County/Perryville: $114,171.12

Racetrack facility renewal account: $51,895.96

Maryland Lottery: $41,516.77

Small, minority and women-owned businesses: $31,137.58

Source: Maryland Lottery